On Sunday Portugal saw the official opening of its new bridge, Arouca 516, overtaking the Charles Kuonen Bridge in the Swiss Alps as the longest pedestrian suspension bridge in the world.
1. Arouca 516
Portugal’s new bridge, Arouca 516, is located in the Unesco-recognised Arouca Geopark above the river Paiva in northern Portugal. The structure features see-through metal grids and spans 516 metres, hanging 175 metres above the river and crossing the steep Paiva River gorge, adding to its existing network of 8km of wooden walkways.
After watching the two year long construction of the bridge, residents of nearby town Arouca were offered the opportunity to walk the immense structure the Thursday before the official opening ceremony. The new addition to the area was met with celebration, and many are hopeful that it will be the new tourist attraction needed to help revive their region, whose economy has been devastated by the Covid-19 pandemic and whose region’s population is rapidly ageing as many young people leave for big cities.
2. Enthusiasm for Arouca 516
Hugo Xavier was the first person to step up to the challenge, telling The Guardian, “I was a little afraid, but it was so worth it.” “It was extraordinary, a unique experience, an adrenaline rush.” Another resident, Rui Brandao, avoided looking down but recommended the experience, saying, “I strongly advise you to come even if, like me, you have vertigo”. “I have to say I haven’t felt it at all.” Margarida Belem, Mayor of Arouca, told AFPTV, “The inauguration is important because it will enable us to resume our tourist activities.” She described it as a “fundamental attraction” for the region.